Orissa is a state situated on the east coast of India.The relatively unindented coastline (c.200 mi/320 km long) lacks good ports, except for the deepwater facility at Paradip. The narrow, level coastal strip, including the Mahanadi River delta, is exceedingly fertile. Orissa is home to the Hirakud Dam, one of the longest dams in the world. Rainfall is heavy and regular, and two crops of rice (by far the most important cereal) are grown annually.Orissa is a littoral state with a long coastline and a storehouse of mineral wealth. Because of its mineral wealth and strategic location it attracts foreign investment in steel, aluminum, power, refineries, and infrastructure. Orissa is also emerging as a player in the outsourcing IT (Information Technology) and IT services industry. The total planned investment in the state is projected to be 90 billion U.S. dollars. However, there are environmental concerns and land acquisitions for some of these projects have been opposed by the local people.The coastal alluvial plain is inhabited by the non-tribal speakers of the Oriya language. The interior, inhabited largely by the indigenous people known as Adivasis is hilly and mountainous. Orissa is subject to intense cyclones; in October 1999, Tropical Cyclone 05B caused severe damage and some 10,000 deaths.Orissa has several popular tourist destinations. Puri, with the Jagannatha's temple near the sea, and Konark, with the Sun Temple, are visited by thousands of tourists from the West every year. Along with the Lingaraja Temple of Bhubaneswar, the Jagannatha Temple and the Sun Temple of Konark are important in the archaeological history of India.
The capital of Orissa is Bhubaneswar. It is famed for its magnificent temples, numbering around a thousand. The city of Puri is nearby, at a distance of around sixty kilometers on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. Puri is a famous holy city and the site of the annual festival of the deity Jagannath and is one of the four Dhams (holy places) of Hinduism.The Chota Nagpur plateau occupies the western and northern portions of the state, while fertile alluvial plains occupy the coastal plain and the valleys of the Mahanadi, Brahmani, and Baitarani rivers, which empty into the Bay of Bengal. These alluvial plains are home to intensive rice cultivation.Although Orissa's forest cover has been denuded lately, one of the greatest attractions of Orissa is its still vast expanses of unspoilt natural landscape, that offers a protected yet natural habitat to the state’s incredible wildlife. There are many wildlife sanctuaries in Orissa. The Similipal Tiger Reserve is a vast expanse of lush green forest with waterfalls, inhabited by tigers, elephants, and other wildlife. The Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary has been protecting estuarine crocodiles since 1975.Chilka Lake, a brackish water coastal lake on the Bay of Bengal, south of the mouth of the Mahanadi River, is the largest coastal lake in India. It is protected by the Chilka Lake Bird Sanctuary, which harbors over 150 migratory and resident species of birds.The highest mountain peak in the state is Deomali (1672 m), it is situated in Koraput district. It is also the tallest peak of the Eastern Ghats. It is part of the Chandragiri-Pottangi mountain system. Location : 18°40'3"N 82°58'59"E
The official language of the state, spoken by the majority of the people is Oriya. Oriya belongs to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family, and is closely related to Bengali and Assamese. A few tribal languages belonging to the Dravidian and Munda language families are still spoken by the Adivasis (original inhabitants) of the state. The state has a very opulent cultural heritage, one of the richest in India, and the capital city of Bhubaneswar is known for the exquisite temples that dot its landscape. The famous classical dance form, Odissi originated in Orissa. Contemporary Orissa has a proud cultural heritage that arose due to the intermingling of three great religious traditions - Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The culture of the Adivasis (the original inhabitants of India) is an integral part of modern Orissan heritage.Odissi or Orissi music is usually classified as a kind of Hindustani classical music of northern India, although some aspects of Odissi are quite distinct. Odissi has a long, unbroken tradition of 2,000 years, and finds mention in the Natyashastra of Bharatamuni, possibly written circa 200 BC. However, the dance form nearly went extinct during the British invasion, only to be revived after India's independence by a few proponents, such as Guru Deba Prasad Das, Guru Mayadhar Raut, Guru Pankaj Charan Das, Guru Mahadev Rout, Guru Raghu Dutta, and Guru Kelu Charan Mahapatra. Odissi classical dance is about the divine love of Krishna and his consort, Radha, mostly drawn from compositions by the notable Oriya poet Jayadeva, who lived in the twelfth century AD.Other cultural attractions include the Jagannatha Temple in Puri, known for its annual Rath Yatra or Car Festival, the unique and beautiful applique artwork of Pipili, silver filigree ornamental works from Cuttack, the Patta chitras (silk paintings),famous stone utensils of Nilgiri(Balasore) and various tribal influenced cultures.
Orissa has a history spanning a period of over 2000 years. The history of Orissa is in many ways atypical from that of the northern plains and many of the common generalizations that are made about Indian history do not seem to apply to the Oriya region. The word Oriya is an anglicised version of Odia which itself is a modern name for the Odra or Udra tribes that inhabited the central belt of modern Orissa. Orissa has also been the home of the Kalinga and Utkal tribes that played a particularly prominent role in the region's history, and one of the earliest references to the ancient Kalingas appears in the writings of Vedic chroniclers. In the 6th C. BC, Vedic Sutrakara Baudhayana mentions Kalinga as being beyond the Vedic fold, indicating that Brahminical influences had not yet touched the land. Unlike some other parts of India, tribal customs and traditions played a significant role in shaping political structures and cultural practices right up to the 15th C. when Brahminical influences triumphed over competing traditions and caste differentiation began to inhibit social mobility and erode what had survived of the ancient republican tradition.In ancient times, it was the proud kingdom of Kalinga. Kalinga was a major seafaring nation that controlled and traded with most of the sea routes in the Bay of Bengal. For several centuries, a substantial part of South Asia & Southeast Asia was under its cultural influence. The temple at Angkor Wat is a fine example of Oriya-influenced Indian architecture. Some parts of Southern and South Eastern Asia such as Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Java, Sumatra, Bali, Vietnam and Thailand were colonized by people from Orissa. In Malaysia, Indians are still referred as Kalings because of this. Many illustrious Sri Lankan kings such as Nisanka Malla and Parakarama Bahu claim Kalinga origin. The king who destroyed the Sinhalese Buddhist control of Northern Sri Lanka and established a Hindu Kingdom in Jaffna was known as Kalinga Magha. One theory holds that the name of the country "Siam" for Thailand is derived from Oriya/Sanskrit Shyamadesha. The Angkor Wat in Cambodia is Orissan, with local variations. Bali in Indonesia still retains its Orissan-influenced Hindu heritage.A major turning point in world history took place in Orissa. The famous Kalinga war that led emperor Ashoka to embrace non-violence and the teachings of Buddha was fought here in 261 BC. Ashoka's military campaign against Kalinga was one of the bloodiest in Mauryan history on account of the fearless and heroic resistance offered by the Kalingas to the mighty armies of the expanding Mauryan empire. Perhaps on account of their unexpected bravery, emperor Ashoka was compelled to issue two edicts specifically calling for a just and benign administration in Kalinga. Later on, Asoka was instrumental in spreading Buddhist philosophy all over Asia.In the third century BC, Kalinga flourished as a powerful kingdom under the Jaina king, Kharavela. He ruled all the way down south to include parts of the Tamil country. He built the superb monastic caves at Udayagiri and Khandagiri. Subsequently, the kingdom was ruled under various monarchs, such as Samudragupta and Sasanka. It also was a part of Harsha's empire. In 795 AD, the king Yayati united Kalinga, Kosala and Utkala into a single empire. He also built the famous Jagannath temple at Puri. King Narasimha Dev is reputed to have built the magnificent Sun Temple in Konark. Although now largely in ruins, the temple may have rivaled the Taj Mahal in splendour.The dynasties that ruled Orissa beginning since the third century BC included:
The Vigrahas and the Mudgalas
The Eastern Gangas
A Muslim convert and ruler, Kala Pahada, with the help Suleman Karrani of Bengal occupied Orissa in 1568 after defeating the last Hindu king Mukundadeva.
The Moguls conquered Bengal and Orissa in 1576; however, Orissa was subsequently ceded to the Marathas in 1751.
In 1803, the British under the British East India Company occupied Orissa after the Second Anglo-Maratha War. In 1823, Orissa was divided into the three districts of Cuttack, Balasore and Puri, and a number of native tributary states. Orissa was administered as part of the Bengal Presidency. Following famine and floods in 1866, large scale irrigation projects were undertaken in the last half of the 19th century. The coastal section was separated from Bengal and made into the Province of Bihar and Orissa in 1912, in response to local agitation for a separate state for Oriya-speaking peoples. In 1936, Bihar and Orissa were split into separate provinces.
Following Indian independence, the area of Orissa was almost doubled and the population was increased by a third by the addition of 30 former princely states. In 1950, Orissa became a constituent state in the Union of India.
Ancient names of Orissa
Kalinga or Trikalinga
Utkal or Utkalraata
Udra, Odra, Oda, Odrabisha or Odrarashtra
Chedi or Matsa (Mahabharata)
In the Ramayana, Lord Rama's mother, Queen Kaushalya is the daughter of the king of Koshal. In the Mahabharata, the Pandavas spent the one year of 'Agyatavasa' (in disguise) as servants of King Virata, ruler of Matsa.
The state is rich in flora and fauna and historical sites dating back to the Stone Age. Sites like Bhitarkanika, Chilika, Nandankanan, Gopalpur and Simlipal are areas of great biological diversity. Passes and permits must be procured from the concerned authorities before entering these areas. It is also advisable to recruit a trained guide since these areas are peopled by tribals whose dialects vary widely and are very sensitive to foreign intrusion.Historical sites such as Khandagiri, Lingaraj Temple, Cave sites in Boudh, Malkangiri and elsewhere have been developed. Many Five Star hotels have come up in Bhubaneswar and Government rest houses, circuit houses and Dak Bungalows dot the interior of the state.
Orissa has a population of 32 million. About 87% of the population live in the villages and one third of the rural population does not own any land other than homesteads.
About 62 distinct tribal groups of indigenous people once inhabited in Orissa. Officially known as "tribals" - but more accurately known as "Adivasis" - they constitute more than one-quarter of the state's population. Many adivasis have adapted to the mainstream Indian lifestyle, but some distince groups remain.The Kondh have a population of about one million and are based in the south-west,around Koraput, and near Sambalpur. The Santal, with a population over 500,000, live around Baripada and Khiching in the far north. The Saura, with a population over 300,000, live near Bolangir in the west. The Bonda, known as 'the Naked People', have a population of about 5000 and live in the hills near Koraput.
The Kisan Tribe
The Kisans are the main residents of Sundergarh, Sambalpur and Kenjhar. They speak the Kisan dialect along with Oriya, Hindi and English. They are farmers and food gatherers and they are famous for their Dance and Music. Kutra Village in Sundergarh District is a major Tribal Village and the main residents of this village are the Toppo's.All the tribal groupings have their own fascinating customs, rituals and beliefs and have become something of a tourist attraction. Although there is always some controversy regarding the advisability and morality of visiting visiting Adivasi areas, tourism does bring much-needed funds to these poor regions. It is important, however, to visit these areas on an organized tour because:
1) Some areas require permits, which can only be obtained by a recognized travel agency.
2) Some tribal areas are hard to find, and often not accessible by public transport.
3) Adivasis often speak little Hindi and Oriya, and usually no English.
4) Some tribes can get angry, even violent, if foreigners visit their villages uninvited and without official permission.
Religion, temples, tribes and festivals
Orissa is an hindu majority state with hindus forming 94.35% of the population (2001 Indian Census, ). This places Orissa as the 3rd most Hindu majority state (in terms of percentage) in India. Christian, Muslim and Sikh minorities have their presence all across the state.The religion of ancient Kalinga was Jainism. Rishabhnath and Parshvanath the first among the Jaina tirthankars preached and were revered in this land. Kalinga is also well mentioned and its history documented in Jain texts. Kalinga's Jain traditions were a major cause for inciting the attacks first by Mahapadma Nanda and later by Ashoka who were egged on by Brahministic courtiers and advisers. The Khandagiri and Udaygiri caves are among the only stone monuments dedicated to the Jain religion which still survive. They were constructed by Emperor Kharavela and his courtiers.
Perhaps the most well-known temple in Orissa is the Konark Temple. This is also known as the Sun Temple and is famous for its exquisite Orissan style of architecture. The Konark temple was built in the 13th century A.D. It includes in its decoration many vignettes of military life. The thousands of elephants marching around the base of the temple demonstrate pride in the superb war elephants for which Orissa was famous.
Another well known temple in Orissa is the Jagannath Temple, which was built in the 12th Century A.D. It is located in Puri and is associated with the Ratha Jatra (Chariot Festival) celebrated all over northern India. Every year millions of devotees come to Puri during the Ratha Jatra. It is a festival during which the three deities, Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra are brought out of the Jagannath temple in chariots to tour the streets, providing a glimpse to the thousands of devotees who throng the street.The capital city of Bhubaneswar has some magnificent temples, including the Lingaraja temple, and the Mukteswar temple. Not surprisingly, it is called the Temple City of India.
About Lord Jagannath Temple, Puri, Orissa, India
Ananta Vasudeva Temple
Konark Sun Temple
Maa Manikeswari Temple,Bhawanipatna
Maa Samaleswari Temple,Sambalpur
Majhi Ghariani Temple, Rayagada
Saktiswar Temple, Bariniput, Jeypore
Sabara Sree Kshetra, Koraput
Panchanana Temple, Raju Street, Jeypore
Jagat Janani Temple, Jeypore
Maa Tarini Temple ,Ghatgaon,Keonjhar
NrusingNath, Paikmal, Bargarh
Ghanteshwari, Chiplima, Bargarh
Dhyanakuda Pitha, Hajipur, Jagatsinghpur
Sarala Temple, Jhankad, Jagatsinghpur
Gorekhnath Temple, Gorekhnath, Jagatsinghpur
Tarini Temple, Biribati, Cuttack
Ratha Yatra (Chariot Festival)
The most famous Orissan festival is of course the Ratha Yatra or Car Festival (June-July) which attracts pilgrims and visitors from all over the world. On the full moon day of the month of Jyestha known as 'Snana Purnima', the idols of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are brought out and bathed on a pendal known as the SnanaMandap according to religious rites. Then they are believed to become indisposed and are confined to a solitary abode for a fortnight where they undergo 'treatment', are offered special ayurvedic medicine boli and some special liquid diet called 'sarapana'. After a rest of fifteen days, on the second day of the lunar month, the three Lords 'come out' in huge chariots to 'meet' the waiting devotees, marking the start of the Grand Festival known as 'Ratha Yatra'.Among a series of rituals, of special mention is the 'sweeping' of the chariots by the Gajapati Maharaja of Puri with a golden broom, to proclaim that he is the first of the Lord's servants and on this particular day he performs the duty of a scavenger to demonstrate socialism in action and the dignity of labour. (Legend has it that King Purushottama Deva, Surya-Banshi King of Medieval Orissa, had to once 'suffer' because of this 'sweeper act', when he was denied princess Padmavati by her father.)The grand Chariots are pulled by thousands of people, irrespective of caste, creed and even religion, to proclaim their universality and accessibility to humanity at large. The deities then go to GundichaGhara (MaausiMaa Mandir) where they remain for eight days, after which Bahuda Yatra (the return car festival) takes place and the Lords return to their abode at ShreeMandir.
Durga Puja (Dushhera)
Durga Puja symbolises the commemoration of good over evil. It is celebrated with great pomp and gaiety by Oriyas and Bengalis residing in Orissa. Durga Puja is celebrated in every town and city of Orissa. The three major Pujas of the state are the Chandimedh of Cuttack, Shahid Nagar's Durga Puja and Nayapalli's Durga Puja. Life comes to a stand-still in the city of Cuttack as crowds pour into the Puja Mandaps to enjoy the festivities. On the day succeeding ‘Vijaya Dasami’, the last day of Dussera, the images are taken in a spectacular procession for immersion in the river Kathajodi.
Saraswati, who is the patron goddess of learning and arts in Hinduism is worshipped all over India especially in Orissa.
Puri Beach Festival
The Puri Beach Festival is conducted by the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Orissa (HRAO), and is a celebration of Orissa, in all its beauty, charm and fun-loving spirit. With events ranging from Fashion shows to rock shows, the Puri Beach festival delights visitors and locals alike. Held on the beautiful beach at Puri, it offers a unique opportunity for visitors to interact with the local populace and enjoy the many splendoured charms of Orissa.The Puri Beach Festival is co-sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, the Department of Tourism, Government of Orissa, Development Commissioner of Handicrafts and the Eastern Zonal Cultural Center, Calcutta. The festival was started by Mr. K. Singh.
Konark Dance Festival
Described as a poem in stone, the Sun temple at Konark is the crowning glory of the temple architecture of Orissa. As a fitting tribute to the majestic monument, eminent classical dancers of India get together during the Konark Festival every year from 1st to 5th December to present live performances of their art. When the sun sets in the horizon and the stars appear in the sky, the open-air auditorium against the backdrop of the floodlit temple reverberates with the beats of Raga and Tala to fill the air. The classical extravaganza is a journey through ecstasy.Konark Dance Festival is held in December in the beautiful backdrop of the Sun temples in Konark, Orissa. The exquisite 'Natamandir' or the 'dancing hall' of this shrine is an architectural wonder. Every inch of its walls have been covered with fine artistic designs of the ancient times. Musicians playing drums, cymbals and other musical instruments adorn the sculptures in Odissi dance posses.
Bali Yatra Festival in Orissa marks the culmination of all the religious festivities held in the month of Karthik, which is considered the most auspicious month in a calendar year. Held on the full moon day in November - December that is celebrated all over Orissa as Karthik Purnima, Bali Yatra commemorates Orissa's ancient maritime legacy.
Karthik Purnima was considered the most auspicious day by the traders (sadhabas) of Orissa to venture in their huge boats called Boita, on journeys to distant lands like the islands of Bali, Java, Sumatra, Borneo and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Tourism of Orissa offers tours to Orissa during the Bali Yatra fair and festival so that you can get a glimpse of Orissa's rich cultural history and colorfully vibrant present on your tour of Festivals in Orissa.Bali Yatra is a hugely popular fair held on the banks of Mahanadi River in the fort area of Cuttack city as well at the seashore at Paradeep. To celebrate the glory of the ancient times, the people in Cuttack as well as in the rest of Orissa float small boats made of cork, colored paper and banana tree barks in the river and water tanks. The ritual of launching tiny paper boats lit by lamps placed within its hollow is known as Boita Bandana.Images of Karthikeswar are worshipped and immersed in the waters of river Mahanadi, near the Shiva Temple, to mark the end of the month of Karthik.
Dhanu Yatra relating to the episode of Lord Krishna's visit to Mathura is colourfully observed at Bargarh a western Orissa District. Observed for 11 days preceding Pausha Poornima - the full moon day of Pausha in December-January, this is the spectacular Dhanuyatra of Bargarh in the western part of Orissa, about 350 km from Bhubaneswar. Dhanuyatra is the theatrical presentation of Krishna Leela of Devaki with Vashudev till the death of Kansa as described in the scriptures. The entire episode is reenacted.The town of Bargarh becomes Mathura, the river Jira becomes Yamuna, and village Ambapalli on other bank of river becomes Gopa. A mango grove there serves as "Vrindaban" and a pond, as lake "Kalindi". A gorgeously decorated stage is erected in the heart of Bargarh to serve as the Durbar of Kansa. An elephant is engaged for the royal transport.The origins of the Dhanu yatra at Bargarh are unclear, but it has been organized since 1948 annually.
Makar Sankranti is celebrated with gusto in mid-January when the Sun enters the orbit of capricon. The sun god is worshipped with great fervour and enthusiasm by one and all. The festival can be best enjoyed at Kalijai (an island in Chilika), Atri, Ghatgaon, Keonjhar, Jashipur and Jagatsinghpur.
The ‘Taratarini Mela’ one of Orissa’s biggest fairs, takes place on each Tuesday of the month of ‘Chaitra’ i.e. from around mid-March to mid-April at Taratarini Pitha – 30 km from Berhampur. A grand congregation takes place on the 3rd Tuesday.
Observed with much pomp and ceremony in Dhenkanal town, it commences from the fullmoon day of Aswin and continues for a period of one week.
Nrusingh Chaturdashi(Baysakha Mela)
Celebration of the birthday of lord Nrusingh in NrusinghNath, on the holy day of Baysakh Chaturdashi. This abatar is in the form of a CAT to protect the life beings from the Mushika Datya.(A RAT Vampire, who is hidden inside the Gandhmardan Mountain). Lord Nrusingh is sitting in the entry point of that RAT Hole.
The ruins of a major ancient university and center of Buddhist learning, Ratnagiri, were recently discovered in Orissa. Scholars from far away lands, such as Greece, Persia and China used to study philosophy, astronomy, mathematics and science at this famed University. Taxila, Nalanda and Ratnagiri are amongst the oldest universities in the world. The ruins of Ratnagiri University have not been fully excavated yet.Entry to various institutes of higher education is through a centralised Joint Entrance Examination, conducted by the Biju Patnaik University and more recently through the Common Entrance Test (CET) conducted by Orissa Private Engineering College Association (OPECA) & Orissa Private Medical College Association (OPMCA), where seats are provided according to order of merit.The Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar (XIMB) is a premier business school of national and international significance located in the state capital. The National Institute of Science Education and Research, Bhubaneswar (NISER) is another premier educational cum research institution that is being set up. It will be built along the lines of the reputed IISc, Bangalore. The idea of building a national level medical school and hospital, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), as well as an Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) in the state capital, Bhubaneswar have also been mooted. Even more recently, Reliance industries has expressed its intention of establishing a new Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology (DA-IICT), as well as a health city for medical education and research in Bhubaneswar. The Indian Ministry of Human Resources Development had also announced its intention of creating two IITs in Orissa, one of which possibly was planned to have been accomplished by upgrading the prestigious University College of Engineering, Burla, under the 11th five year plan. Unfortunately, the ministry shifted the IIT to Andhra Pradesh. As of now, Orissa receives the lowest per capita investment of all 28 states from the central government towards human resource development. This has led to widespread protest throughout Orissa.